Royal Witches – A Halloween Review

AD How do you stop a powerful woman? Call her a witch.

Alongside treason, it is probably the worst thing a woman could be accused of. Once you have been tainted with the accusation of witchcraft, there’s no going back.

Throughout history, any women who defied their societal norms was open to accusations of witchcraft. This was especially the case if a woman was thought to be too bossy or powerful. Its no surprise then that there are several examples of royal woman being accused of witchcraft in history.

This fascinating subject is explored in Royal Witches: From Joan of Navarre to Elizabeth Woodville. Its the first book from historian Gemma Hollman and its a solid debut.

Royal witches review

In Royal Witches, Gemma explores the lives of four royal women from the medieval period. These are Joan of Navarre, Eleanor Cobham, Jacquetta Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth Woodville. The common factor between them all? They were all accused of witchcraft.

You may have realised from some of my previous posts I am interested in the history of witchcraft, so I was aware of the rumours of witchcraft surrounding Edward IV’s queen Elizabeth Woodville and her mother Jacquetta. I was keen to learn more about the real history behind the stories that feature in Philippa Gregory’s novels. Likewise, most of what I know about Eleanor Cobham comes from The Hollow Crown. It was time for an education.

Royal Witches – Review

In terms of structure each royal female has a few chapters of the book devoted to their story. Jacquetta and Elizabeth’s stories are told as one. This makes sense given their lives and stories were naturally intertwined as mother and daughter.

Overall I really like Gemma’s writing style.  You can tell she has done her research but she builds her narrative in a clear and engaging way, without overloading you with all the facts at once. Throughout the book she also makes comparisons between the women and the situations they found themselves in. It really drives home the fact that despite the women had very different stories the motivation against them all were the same – greed. Religion and witchcraft actually had very little to do it – it was all about politics and power, and witchcraft was an easy way to neutralise influential women.

It’s a minor point but for some reason the genealogical tables were at the back of the book, instead of the front which is usually the norm. This means I didn’t realise they were there straight away. It wasn’t a major issue for me as luckily I already have knowledge of the medieval period and could follow who was who. Obviously if you were a bit more of a beginner it would be better to be able to find the tables right away.

Royal Witches Review

Overall, I really enjoyed Royal Witches and will be recommending it to fellow readers. I’ll also be keeping an eye out to see what comes next from Gemma. Her writing style is one that had me quickly hooked and entertained. From the stylish front cover to the poignant conclusion, Royal Witches is worthy of a read all year round – not just Halloween.

(Many thank to The History Press, who kindly sent me this book for review and stopped me going crazy from boredom after my accident. However, all love of amazing females from history is my own!)

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